Charlotte Observer
11:49 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Union Schools May Avoid Countywide Redistricting

Union County might be spared a controversial countywide school redistricting plan after all.

School board chair Richard Yercheck said Tuesday morning he expects his group will accept the county commissioners’ surprise $3 million offer to buy 49 mobile units. Commissioners on Monday said they made the offer to eliminate the need for countywide redistricting, and solve an issue that has been tearing the community apart

But Yercheck cautioned that even if the board accepts the deal, some amount of redistricting would be required.

The school board is considering its first-ever countywide redistricting to deal with overcrowding. The plan would affect about 5,800 students out of 41,800, or about 14 percent of total enrollment.

“I’m one of nine votes...I suspect we’ll take the $3 million and buy the trailers,” Yercheck said. “But we would need to move a smaller number because we have schools that have reached core capacity for safety issues.

“We still have overcrowding issues.”

Mobile units are one of the alternatives to redistricting that school officials had identified, and their use could postpone the need for widespread chances in school attendance lines or other alternatives for several years.

The county, once one of the fastest growing in the country, is still seeing growth with new homes adding to the size of the state’s sixth largest school district. Some parents worry that redistricting would send their children to lower-performing schools, disrupt their routines or hurt their home values.

Three schools have reached their maximum capacity; the school board capped enrollment in November for Marvin Ridge Middle, Porter Ridge Middle and Kensington Elementary. If there is no student reassignment, a fourth school would be capped next year and four others would come close.

The school board has a meeting Tuesday night. Yercheck said he did not think the group would vote on the commissioners’ proposal at that time.

The commissioners’ offer caught school leaders off guard. Yercheck said the board would need to see the commissioners’ proposal in writing and have the schools’ staff study the plan.

“Historically, everything they send comes with strings attached,” Yercheck said.

The school board and county commissioners have frequently been at odds over the past year on money issues, and the county continues to appeal a $91 million jury award to the school district in a budget dispute.

Charlotte Observer